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Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung Takes Aim at iPad with Sleek Android Honeycomb Tablet

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Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Photo © Samsung

Many considered Samsung’s first tablet undertaking, the original Galaxy Tab, to be a solid yet underwhelming first try at the tablet space. A lot of it had to do with the operating system, which basically shoehorned the Android smartphone OS into a tablet.

With the Galaxy Tab 10.1, however, Samsung is melding its propensity for solid hardware design with an OS built especially with tablets in mind, Google’s Android Honeycomb. Is the second time a charm? Read on for my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 review.

PROS

It’s a looker: The Galaxy Tab 10.1’s design got a lot of positive buzz once the final version was unveiled and now I understand why. The new tablet makes the first Tab look positively chunky. The sleek design also gives the iPad 2 a run for its money. At 8.6 millimeters (just under .34 inches) thick and 565 grams (a little over 1.24 pounds) heavy, Samsung’s Tab 10.1 is actually a smidgen thinner and lighter than Apple’s second-generation tablet. In fact, a few folks at a party I attended recently thought I was using some new iPad prototype when they saw the device. That’s likely one of the best compliments you can get designwise.

Speedy performance: The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is quick and snappy, thanks to a 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor and performance improvements in Google’s Android Honeycomb OS since it first debuted on the Xoom. The 1GB of RAM is also higher than the iPad 2’s 512 MB. Programs ran smoothly and multi-tasking worked well. The tablet pretty much eats up high-def video, apps and web content with no problems.

Nice display: Samsung knows how to make displays and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is no exception. Images and video look nice on the high-definition, 10.1-inch (now the name makes sense!) widescreen TFT-LCD display. For spec geeks, resolution is 1280x800 at 149 pixels per inch, which trumps the iPad 1 and 2’s pixel density of 132 ppi. The device can also play back 1080p video.

Double cameras: The Galaxy Tab 10.1 comes with both front- and rear-facing cameras, allowing you to not just take photos and videos but to also do video chat.

Battery life: Many iPad rivals typically fall short when it comes to matching the Apple tablet’s stellar battery life of 10 hours for video. Samsung claims a battery life of 9 hours for video but you can easily get more depending on your settings.

Android: If you’re a fan of Android’s more open environment, then you’ll like the bells and whistles that come with the OS, including widgets, Flash support and the ability to play video file formats that you typically can’t use in an iPad. Folks invested in the Google environment will appreciate the compatibility with Google’s services such as Gmail and Google Talk.

CONS

Dearth of connectors: One of my complaints about the iPad is its use of one proprietary connector slot, coupled with the lack of standard MicroSD, MicroUSB and HDMI slots. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 suffers from the same problem, which is disappointing given that the Xoom has all of the aforementioned slots.

OS upgrade concerns: As someone who owns a Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant smartphone that I really like, I have one pet peeve about the device: the glacial pace for OS updates. In fact, my phone is still rocking “Android 2.1-update1.” Forget 2.3, I’ll be happy to just get 2.2. Given that history, the speed of updates for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a potential concern. Samsung’s TouchWiz is also coming to the device via a future update, which can be good or bad depending on whether you like Samsung’s custom interface or prefer stock Android.

Android: Hey, wait a minute, didn’t you list this as an advantage? Why, yes, I did. But just as Android Honeycomb has its strong points, it also has some hiccups. These include fewer dedicated tablet apps than the iPad and no Skype video chat (only Google’s version of video chat), which could be a big deal for some folks.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is arguably the best Android Honeycomb tablet out in the market as of its release, although a few issues prevent it from being a runaway winner. It can definitely stand toe-to-toe with an iPad 2 in a beauty contest and even surpass it in brawn. In fact, it’s mostly limited by Honeycomb’s own limitations as far as apps and user-friendliness compared to Apple's iOS. If Google continues to improve and polish the Honeycomb OS and if Samsung implements those OS improvements in a speedy fashion, however, then it can be a serious tablet contender, especially for people looking for an iPad alternative.

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